Friday, February 16, 2007

24 Bitch Slap

I have a friend named Jeff whom I’ve known for over 30 years. He loves throwing out little debate bones for me to gnaw on. Today he emailed me and some mutual friends this little tidbit:

Hey friends -

I know at one time or another we've debated the merits of the show '24'. Great article in the Feb 19 issue of the New Yorker by Jane Mayer about '24' and the legitimazation of torture. If you have a chance I'd suggest you take a look.

In the first 5 seasons, '24' depicted 67 instances of torture and in almost every case depicted it in a positive light. Basically the creator, Joel Surnow admits it's conservative propoganda devoted to supporting the right wing vision of the war on terror. One of his great friends is Anne Coulter and one of his personal heros is Joe McCarthy.

My favorite line is when Gordon, the head writer of the show laments the difficulty of writing '24'. Is he lamenting the complication of trying to script real time drama with heros racing against the actual clock to save the world? No his lament is: "It's getting hard not to repeat the same torture techniques over and over."


A little background: Two years ago, Jeff argued that “24” was a morally unethical show because of it’s use of torture. I argued Jeff really had no position on the show until he watched it (he hadn’t seen a single episode).

Here is my response:

Some things never die...

I guess Jeff's rant on "24" is one of them.

OK, it's time to do a little bitch slapping Jack Bauer style. I haven't yet read the New Yorker article, but I did read a sanitized MSNBC article that highlighted the New Yorker article's observation of the alarming increase of torture scenes on television post-9/11 with "24" being TV's lead culprit. A retired U.S. Army colonel was quoted in the MSNBC article as saying if Jack Bauer had been working under him, he'd be headed for a court-martial.

For those of you who have seen every episode of every season of "24," you know what he's talking about. But for those of you who have not seen one single episode of "24" (sound effect simulating BITCH SLAP) what are you doing? Who are you kidding? How can you assert the moral high ground to "24" viewers when you don't have a clue what you're talking about?

This email reminds me of the last time I attended mass at a Catholic church. Just before the priest let everyone out, he felt the need to say a few words about a new film that had just been released that was creating a lot of concern among members of his church. He hadn't seen the film himself, but he had heard enough details to believe with complete certainty that viewing this film was morally wrong. That's what he said. I don't know if he used the words, "sin against God," but that's
what he meant. He was never going to see that film, and he advised the
entire congregation to do the same. That film was Martin Scorsese's "The
Last Temptation of Christ," and to this day, its a reminder why I cannot
criticize any film, book, or TV show on moral grounds until I experience the
thing myself.

That's the only reason I paid 8 bucks to see Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." I had no voice in the discussion until I saw "Passion," but once I saw that brutal, ridiculous, over-the-top snuff film with my own eyes my voice was loud and clear.

So Jeff, I know you're nothing like that idiot priest who turned me off Catholicism
for good, so I offer you this challenge: Watch Season 1 of "24" in its entirety and I will listen, argue, agree with, debate, deplore and discuss the moral and/or unethical use of torture on the TV show "24," as well as listen to, argue, agree with, debate, deplore and discuss the moral and/or unethical practice of WATCHING and being ENTERTAINED by a show like "24." But until then, your position on "24" (and the moral high ground you stand on) means ("bitch slap!") nothing, ("bitch slap!") zilch, ("bitch slap!") nada.

OK, I'm off to soak my sore palm and read that New Yorker article because I'm sure it's highly illuminating. Jeff, I hope you're off to the video store (or earranging your NetFlix queue) to experience Season 1. Enjoy the ride (and welcome to the club!).

With love,


He’ll never watch, nor will he acknowledge his lack of any seat at the 24 roundtable.

Poker this weekend, and some screenwriting. On Tuesday is the Racquetball Championship at Club One. With the best player at the club out over a back injury, it looks as though I’ll successfully defend my title. Sweet!

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